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Indiana Commission on Public Records

ICPR > State Archives > Collections > Civil War Records > Camp Morton > 1861 1861

The first Indiana Volunteers arrived at Camp Morton less than a week after Fort Sumter. Those who had planned to show stock at the State Fair that year were no doubt surprised to find themselves quartered in the sheds and stalls intended for their animals. The 36 acres of land, located between Delaware and New Jersey streets and between 19th and 22nd streets, had been purchased by the state in 1859 for use as the State Fairground. Renamed in honor of Governor Oliver P. Morton, it soon housed thousands of volunteers and had to be enlarged to allow for drilling exercises. The camp was closed to outsiders after huge crowds of spectators turned out to watch recruits drill. A constant flow of soldiers to the camp for training continued into the following year.

In a Special Session of the Indiana General Assembly, Governor Morton reported in his opening speech that 12,000 Indiana men had volunteered to serve as soldiers. Convened to deal with the ramifications of the Civil War in Indiana, the General Assembly passed legislation to appropriate one million dollars to help defray war expenses, organize and regulate the Indiana Militia, appoint paymasters for the regiments, define treason and authorize the Governor, Auditor and Treasurer to borrow money for troop supplies and transportation. Senate Bill 16 which provided for the "manner of procuring, and the quality of subsistence stores and articles in the Quartermaster and Commissary Departments, prescribing the duties of certain officers...and the punishment for the violation of the provision of this act" was also passed during the Special Session.

Joint resolutions were passed to send arms temporarily to southern Indiana counties and provide medical aid to Camp Morton No. 2.

"There are in camp-companies, being an excess of the number called for by the President, and in addition to that, every company largely exceeds, and in some cases doubles the number that can be finally received into the company. Some companies came by mistakes unavoidably occurring in the office of the Adjutant General, and others without marching orders. They will be retained in camp, and provided with quarters and subsistence, awaiting the action of Legislature.

I cannot refrain from here expressing the opinion that has been uttered by many who have visited the camp, that finer material for a gallant army was never assembled."

Governor Oliver P. Morton
1861 Special Session of the Indiana General Assembly
Commissary General
Isaiah Mansur's letter of resignation

Governor Morton appointed Isaiah Mansur, prominent local businessman and former college roommate, as Commissary General on April 15. Charged with supplying the volunteers at Camp Morton, Mansur was immediately faced with two problems: money had not yet been appropriated and there were no official guidelines for his position. Governor Morton and Isaiah Mansur decided that the volunteers should receive a larger ration than the U.S. Army regulation food allowance. In spite of this there were numerous complaints regarding not only the quality but the quantity of rations. The complaints eventually caught the attention of the General Assembly, then meeting in the special session, which formed a committee to investigate. Specific charges included short rations, adulterated coffee and poor quality beans, dried fruit and pork. The committee's report acknowledged the difficulty of Mansur's position and commented that "no person...ought to be censured, unless mistakes have occurred through fraud, ignorance or willful negligence." During the course of the investigation they inspected the provisions on hand, visited almost all of the companies and interviewed soldiers. Irregularities in the accounting system also prompted the committee to examine the books of those who had sold rations to the camp.

The committee found that most of the problems regarding quality were temporary, resulting from shipments of inferior supplies, but that the coffee had been adulterated. The report noted that while Isaiah Mansur "did all in his power to produce competition in the market and to purchase... articles at the lowest cash price" he had not solicited bids for the pork. Instead the pork had been purchased from the Commissary General's own pork plant and weighed by his brother. Rations did exceed army regulation but "have not been in accordance with the schedule in the report of the Commissary General heretofore made to the House." Favoritism on the part of employees of the Commissary, without the Commissary General's knowledge, accounted for the short rations received by some of the men.

In the House the report was informally passed and tabled. Later the following amendment was added: "Resolved, That the Governor be requested to remove the present Commissary general for malfeasance and incompetency to discharge the duties of his office." The amendment was adopted and the House printed 300 copies of the report for its members.

The Senate voted that the committee report had shown "conclusively that the Commissary General has been guilty of gross mismanagement and negligence which has resulted in hardships to our volunteers, and loss to the state; therefore, Resolved, That the Governor be, and he is hereby respectfully requested, to remove the present Commissary General from office". Voting was postponed until the following afternoon when it would be the special order of business.

In a letter to the General Assembly Commissioner, General Mansur defended the purchase of the pork, the accounting practices questioned by the committee and explained that he had to purchase the prepared coffee. Many soldiers arrived in camp without the supplies to prepare their own coffee, but he discontinued the purchase of prepared coffee once the coffee utensils arrived. He felt he should be given the opportunity to present his own evidence and witnesses and confront those who had accused him. He was certain he could "show beyond cavil that every dollar of the State's funds passing through his hand has been judiciously and economically expended." In the House it was moved to reconsider the vote regarding the report. This reconsideration was postponed. The Senate referred the letter to the Committee on Military Affairs.

The following day, May 29, Governor Morton accepted Isaiah Mansur's letter of resignation.

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